Lilian Müller
Stina Ericsson
Per-Olof Hedvall


Despite laws, policies, and visions to create cities and societies for all, barriers still exclude persons with disabilities from using buildings and public places. Our study aimed to identify choices made during the urban development process, which include or exclude users in the built environment; how and when these arise during the process; and what is needed to implement Universal Design (UD) as a strategy and tool to secure all users equal opportunities in the built environment.
The study involved employees and private actors in city development processes. The participants were asked to identify impediments and support of UD in completed building projects to shed light on choices made during the process and on conditions needed to implement UD along the process. Four workshops were followed by qualitative interviews with key players. The analysis was based on qualitative data from workshops and interviews.
Aspects impeding and supporting UD and conflicting visions and goals were identified in all phases, and the need for tools to implement UD. Findings show that accessibility for all users is dealt with (too) late in the process, often causing special solutions. Urban trends like densification and high exploitation can cause exclusion of some users, and an unbalanced view on sustainable development prioritising ecological aspects put high demands on users’ abilities. Findings also show how UD appeared more clearly in remodelling projects than in the new constructions. A strong vision from the start to build for all users clearly supported UD throughout the process. Other factors such as pre-studies which include human diversity, allocation of resources and experts’ early opinions also showed to be clear drivers for UD.
Overall, the findings show a demand for solutions to maintain early visions and goals throughout the processes. We conclude by providing seven recommendations for addressing these challenges.


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How to Cite
Müller, L., Ericsson, S. and Hedvall, P.-O. (2022) “Visions of a City for All: Resources, Choices and Factors Supporting and Impeding Universal Design in the Urban Development Process”, The Journal of Public Space, 7(2), pp. 63–78. doi: 10.32891/jps.v7i2.1486.
Author Biographies

Lilian Müller, Lund University

Lilian Müller is accessibility advisor and since 2019, PhD student at Certec, LTH/Lunds University. “Who are we building for” was the overarching question in her Licentiate thesis, presented in 2021, on accessibility and universal design in the built environment. Lilian has been working with accessibility, usability and universal design in building projects, and as a certified accessibility expert in assessing accessibility in constructed buildings and places. Since 2017 Lilian is representing ANEC (European Consumers) in standardisation committees connected to accessibility and Universal Design, like a recently adapted ISO-standard on accessible tourism. She has a long engagement, previous as Chairman of the Board and later as Board member of the European network ENAT, and evaluator of the programme “Towns and cities for all”, commissioned by the Design for all Foundation in Barcelona.

Stina Ericsson, University of Gothenburg

Stina Ericsson is a linguist and Professor of Swedish at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Her research interests include people's interactions with and in built environments, as well as norms and categorisations in relation to gender, sexuality, and disability.

Per-Olof Hedvall, Lunds University

Dr. Per-Olof Hedvall, associate professor in Rehabilitation engineering and design, works as Director of Certec, Department of Design Sciences, Lund University (P.O. Box 118, 221 00 LUND, Sweden. +46462224094 per-olof.hedvall@certec.lth.se). Hedvall’s research deals with accessibility, participation, and universal design. His current research aims to generate new knowledge regarding the implementation of Universal Design in Sweden, and deals with categorisations of dis/ability and gender as patterns of inequality and discrimination, people’s strategies for counteracting discrimination, and how to create categorisations that do not lead to inequality and stigma.


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